St Martin's church is a 'very remarkable building with windows glowing with gemstone colours' according to architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner.
It has been a place of worship for almost 850 years. But these have not been altogether peaceful years. Because it is so close to Scotland, the priory suffered during the Anglo Scottish wars of the 14th century. In 1311 Robert Bruce himself raided it. The thick walls of the tower may well have been used for defence. Then with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the priory church began to fall into disrepair.
The ruins at the east end of the church, some standing almost to their full height and forming a dramatic silhouette, are a silent witness to this story of destruction and decay. Despite everything, worship continued in the north aisle, which was walled off and reroofed in about 1740 and became the parish church while the remainder of the original church was left roofless.
The church houses some interesting artefacts, both ancient and modern. An inscribed Roman centurial stone in the priory's fabric shows that stone to build the original structure came from Hadrian's Wall. This stone is clearly visible, but it was incorporated into the stonework upside down!
In relatively recent times, stained glass windows from the late 19th century were designed by the pre Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris & Company, and a splendid recently restored Dossal designed for the Priory by William Morris. They add a welcome burst of colour to the otherwise muted church, where time casts a very long shadow.